I recently came across this useful article:
For anyone affected by depression – maybe as someone susceptible to it; maybe as a family member; or maybe as a professional – this is worth a read.
The thought is that Depression may be an adaptive response to adversity, and part of a somatic process of protecting us. The author considers how Polyvagal Theory may help us understand depression better.
Polyvagal Theory emanates from the work of Stephen Porges, and postulates that rather than the classic Sympathetic v Parasympathetic split in our nervous system, and the well known “Fight and Flight” v “Rest and Digest” there may be a further response of “Fear and Freeze” coming from the older dorsal branch of the Vagus nerve, creating an extreme Parasympathetic response to major stress. Its not an easy set of concepts to grasp, and I like Deborah Dana’s writing on the topic for an accessible way in to it.1
I don’t think this creates a universal theory of Depression by any means, which is best considered as a complex response to multiple physical, emotional and psychological inputs, however certainly these thoughts help us to see new treatment options for Depression, and also help to remove some of the stigma of “its all in your head” – maybe its not.
Yoga Therapy can help look at health in the round, not constrained by divisions between physical and psychological, and there is good evidence supporting Yoga’s use with Depression. 2,3
Yoga Therapy can also help us by giving a perspective to conditions like Depression away from the rigidity of the Western dominant BioMedical model – for example the mapping Polyvagal Theory to the various energetic qualities that Yoga recognises within the three Guanas – Tamas, Rajas and Sattva. 4
1 – Book: The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation – Deborah Dana (2018)
2 – Yoga for Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Anaysis
3 – Positive therapeutic and neurotropic effects of yoga in depression: A comparative study
4 – Yoga Therapy and Polyvagal Theory: The Convergence of Traditional Wisdom and Contemporary Neuroscience for Self-Regulation and Resilience